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Jun 18, 2015 05:08 PM EDT

Graeme Phillip Harris Pleads Guilty to Hanging Noose on Ole Miss James Meredith Statue


After entering his guilty plea, a former University of Mississippi student could face up to a year in prison for hanging a noose and a Confederate emblem on the school's statue of James Meredith.

According to the Associated Press, Graeme Phillip Harris pleaded guilty to one charge of threatening force to intimidate African-American students and employees at Ole Miss. Harris will not face a second charge of conspiracy to violate civil rights, which was part of his initial indictment in March.

Harris placed a noose and an old Georgia flag - which had the Confederate emblem on it - on Ole Miss' statue in Feb. 2014. The school identified three suspects at the time, all of who were 19-year-old white males.

The school since turned the case over to federal investigators and only Harris was arrested and charged.

In addition to his potential prison sentence, U.S. District Judge Michael Mills could hand down a fine up to $100,000, the AP noted. The addition conspiracy charge would have carried a potential fine up to $250,000.

"We're thankful that this case has been brought to a resolution and responsibility has been accepted for this deplorable act. It is our hope that by bringing closure to this investigation we can begin the healing process for all those affected by the behavior that took place the morning of Feb. 16, 2014," Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs at Ole Miss, said in a statement to the AP. "This further affirms that conduct of this nature will not be tolerated on our campus."

Meredith was the first African-American student to attend Ole Miss, but despite his enrollment in 1962, he needed to be escorted around campus by police.

Now 81 years old and living in Jackson, Meredith voiced criticism for the need to involve the federal authorities in the case. He used the case to argue that the state does not prosecute crimes of racism against blacks in Mississippi as much as they can.

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